For three weeks in May/June, Laura West has been the first visiting artist at Solheim Rapid  Prototyping Lab (actually she is the first visiting artist in the history of the engineering college).  Laura West is a sculptor who is a tenured faculty member at Fresno City College in California.

Laura came to us to study the development of our powders and their application in metal casting – Laura is well known for her metal casting skills – esp. with iron casting.  Prior to coming here, Professor West has been investing Z-corps standard powders in a ceramic shell lost “powder” process for pouring bronze, aluminum and iron.

While at Solheim Lab, she took a different strategy – Laura adapted one of our base recipes to print cementenous material molds.

Test molds ready for pouring

Instead of printing a pattern to make a mold around, Professor West printed the mold to pour metal directly.  When the saturation level was adjusted correctly, the printed molds turned out beautiful, crisp and clean.  The molds were lightly sprayed with rubbing alcohol then cured for 24 hours to allow moisture to evaporate (both by air and kiln) and then some were painted with a mold wash (zircon flour, graphite and alcohol).  Both open face and two part closed molds were tested with bronze and aluminum, with great success.  The surface of the cement printed molds held up well to the molten metal with very little burn-in (similar to that of a resin bonded sand mold).  The resulting castings had a good detail level.

The cementenous mix also produced very good results for printing of sculpture and other designs.  The surface is very hard without the use of an infiltrate.  When the surface is sprayed with rubbing alcohol, the strength of the patterns is amazing – Laura used the test bars as a nail file.  This is a great example of how the arts and sciences can come together to produce some very exciting results!

Just after pouring

15 Comments on Visiting Artist: Laura West

  1. Kevin Smith says:

    Fantastic! I think that direct printing of molds is one of the most exciting capabilities of 3d printers. Direct metal deposition equipment is still fairly complicated and therefor expensive but this gives us the ability to easily cast aluminum and iron parts. It really opens up a lot of possibilities. Will you be publishing the formula for the cementenous powder that was developed?

  2. Richard Sewell says:

    This is exciting stuff!

    Can you say any more about what was in the mix, and about the machine that you were printing on ?

    • ganter says:

      Richard , yes it’s coming soon. We should be releasing two new materials over the next month or so. We are printing on 400 class
      hardware. It should work most available 3DP commercial hardware. Cementenous materials are a little bit rough on the hardware Cheers.

      Ron Rael (UCB) has been printing in his own mix of cementenous materials over the last several months. I believe that he have multiple pieces showing in Denver.

      http://www.denverpost.com/ente.....i_15362041

  3. Joseph Mahaney says:

    Ahh! Cool! I have heard of her…as I work at Fresno City College myself in the Chemistry and Physical Science departments. I heard of her work through the Applied Technology where there is access to several Z 3D printers. Quite pleased with the results of many of the 3DP ‘hackers’ and professionals. Keep them coming!

    • ganter says:

      Joseph, hopefully she will continue what she started at the Solheim Rapid Prototyping lab. We have discussed a whole variety of extensions to this initial work. We look forward to a continued collaboration with Laura. We were very excited with the 3D print and pour mold concept!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by reBang™, C. Sven Johnson. C. Sven Johnson said: #3Dprinting cementenous molds for casting metal: http://bit.ly/bZY7yE (kind of thing a post-industrial designer would like) #IndDes #DDmfg […]

  5. Joseph Mahaney says:

    I have sent an e-mail to Professor West with hopes of observing the process first hand here at Fresno City College. (Shameless plug!) I hope to hear from her soon. In the meantime, could you openly discuss some of the suggestions you have made to Professor West?

    Have you thought about using these molds for sintering metals and ceramics using a microwave oven?

    • ganter says:

      Jospeh, I’m sure that West will be happy to show you the process (she is rightfully excited about her great success). I think that she might be traveling so be patient with her.

      Big secret that we gave to her “Over come your fear and just do it”. 3D printers are relatively robust machines. As long as the powdered material is roughly the appropriate particle size, give it a shot. Also, we worked though the details of bench testing powder recipes. On a good day, she tried about 20+ powders. I am quite sure that she will continue to experiment with MANY more powders and MANY more ideas (as I could hear the ideas spinning in her head).

  6. Joseph Mahaney says:

    If she is traveling then all the best to her. Ahh, the perks of being a member of the faculty. 😉 Now worries, I will be here when she returns.

    Seems with most things in science and engineering and hacking and art and…’Just do it’ is the motto. When trying new powdered materials is the binder the same as supplied by the 3DP vendor? Oh, perhaps you could post your process for bench test recipes of new materials on the DIY 3DP list on Yahoo! How many powder combinations have you attempted so far? 😉

    Just so you know, I definitely appreciate the work you are doing and the fact that you are openly sharing your work with the rest of us.

    OH yea…I will be in Seattle in a couple of weeks on a mini vacation…any chance that I might be able to stop by? 😉

  7. Joseph Mahaney says:

    If she is traveling then all the best to her. Ahh, the perks of being a member of the faculty. 😉 Now worries, I will be here when she returns.

    Seems with most things in science and engineering and hacking and art and…’Just do it’ is the motto. When trying new powdered materials is the binder the same as supplied by the 3DP vendor? Oh, perhaps you could post your process for bench test recipes of new materials on the DIY 3DP list on Yahoo! How many powder combinations have you attempted so far? 😉

    Just so you know, I definitely appreciate the work you are doing and the fact that you are openly sharing your work with the rest of us.

    OH yea…I will be in Seattle in a couple of weeks on a mini vacation…any chance that I might be able to stop by? 😉

  8. […] spray of alcohol/water to enhance the surface finish.   Strength is very good.    This is the cementenous material which was jointly developed with visiting artist Laura West. Posted by admin Pictures, […]

  9. […] spray of alcohol/water to enhance the surface finish.   Strength is very good.    This is the cementenous material which was jointly developed with visiting artist Laura West. Posted by admin Pictures, […]

  10. […] see your mud pies and raise you a ladle of hot metal. Visiting Artist: Laura West Open3DP (Open 3D Printing) […]

  11. […] see your mud pies and raise you a ladle of hot metal. Visiting Artist: Laura West Open3DP (Open 3D Printing) […]

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